Kalaw and Inle Lake

After forever on a bus we finally arrived in Kalaw. Kalaw is a village in the mountains. It was definitely a change of pace from Bagan and Yangon and it was welcomed.

Here is where the trekkers went and did the trek and Ben and I stayed and relaxed for 2 nights. We ate at the bakery, went on a walk and sunbathed and it was really nice to just relax in a nice place. In the mornings though, it was cold. On the second morning we could see our breath. The free breakfast we got in the mornings we enough to feed entire families rather just the two of us.

The trekkers we walking to our next destination, Inle lake. We were given the option of the taking the train or the bus. The train would take 6 hours and was a cargo train or the minibus would take 2.5. You can guess which one we took!

The bus driver took one look at my bag, climbed onto the roof with it and strapped it down. The next 2.5 hours were filled with overtaking on blind corners on windy roads down the mountains and I was very glad when we arrived at the junction to Inle Lake where we caught the taxi.

On your way into the Inle Lake region you have to pay a fee of 13,000kyat this goes toward local villages. We stayed for two nights was called Nyaung Shwe. On our first night for dinner we went to a place called Innlay hut for dinner which is an indian. The owners are mother and son. Mum is chef and son is out front. The son is obsessed with Eminem so the decor is very eminem based with slogans on the walls interspersed with buddhas. he wore a top that said “Fack Trump” on the front and still don’t give a shit on the back and was very strange!

On our last day in Inle we took a boat tour on the lake which was stunning. We passed floating farms and floating villages. We visited a weaver, blacksmith and the long necked tribe where they wear rings around their neck. These weigh 13kgs and a new ring is added every 5 years. Originally they were used as protection from tigers but now just for beauty. Once these rings are on they do not come off as the neck muscles become too weak to hold the head up.

This morning we left inle lake for an 8 hour bus ride to Mandalay.

Bagan

Our journey to Bagan started with an 8 hour overnight bus journey from Yangon. I wasn’t expecting much from this because everytime I’ve taken the Megabus from Aberdeen to London I’ve absolutely hated it. Our first impressions weren’t good with the bus having gravestones painted on the side and the lord’ s prayer printed on the windscreen. We couldn’t have been more wrong the seats were wide and comfortable with footrests and loads of leg room. We also had a tv which was showing Tom and Jerry or Rambo 3. I opted for 8 hours of Tom and Jerry. We arrived in Bagan at 5am where our guide met us to take us to a pagoda for sunrise. Sunrise from the pagoda was beautiful. He then took us to 3 other temples, which none of us were interested in as we were so tired. Once we arrived at the guesthouse I had a 4 hour nap to feel human again. The plan for the evening was to hire mopeds and as a group go to see the sunrise from a hill. I gave the moped a go along the side of the main road but didn’t want to drive it on the roads as the driving is insane so I went on the back of our guide La’s moped. Whilst we were watching sunset there were Burmese kids mainly trying to sell their drawings and postcards but a couple were collecting foreign coins a little boy called Juju had 11 countries worth and I added 2 more to his collection – Malaysia and India.

Bagan has over 3000 pagodas in the area and they are everywhere to be seen, so on our second we spent the day riding on mopeds trying to see as many as possible. On our trip with the mopeds we went to old Bagan which was so quiet with houses that villagers had made out of bamboo. Once we were done for the afternoon La went his separate ways and I was left mopedless. Alice was determined to have me riding it without fear so off we went to a back road for me to practice it. I loved it on the back road and drove it back to the hotel but the main roads. Definitely glad I tried it but don’t think I’ll be giving up my car for it! We ate dinner at a place called Sharkys which was very cute and then called it a night before our 8 hour bus journey to Kalaw the next morning.

Kuala Lumpur > Yangon

After leaving Delhi we caught a red eye flight to Kuala Lumpur. The flight itself would have been fine if we didn’t have a group of Indian guys who had never flown before infront of us… Once we arrived at KL airport I immediately decided I liked it already. We got an uber from the airport into the city which I told Ben we couldn’t fall asleep in… I slept for most of it. Arriving at the hotel had us in awe. We had managed to get a good deal on a 5 star and it was amazing. We arrived too early to check in and went up to the pool to sleep around it. We then headed to Petronas Towers mall for some lunch. After wandering back to the hotel we finally got into our room which was more like a flat! We had a kitchen/living room, bedroom, walk in wardrobe and a bathroom. It was a long way off the Indian hotels we had just come from. That night we went for dinner and to see the greatest showman (tickets were less than £3!!) Our second day in KL started off with us taking a walk to the KL tower in our ticket price it included a walk round the mini zoo. Here we fed squirrel monkeys and I fed the birds. It took me 2 attempts to manage the birds, the first time I freaked out and threw the seeds everywhere when a parrot flew at me. The man sorted my out the next time and I was fine! The next day we got an uber to the airport again and flew to Yangon. My flight got upgraded so I had the luxury of first class. Kuala Lumpur airport has to be the most chilled airport I have ever been in. If only they were all like that. Arriving in Yangon was yet another culture shock for me. Our uber driver caused us a nightmare trying to find him and then when we did find him he didn’t speak to us till he wanted a tip. So far for me, Myanmar is similar to india but less crazy driving. Today we have been to shwedagon pagoda which was stunning. We also visited the reclining Buddha and the market. Tonight we board an overnight bus which I’m feeling pretty anxious about!

10 things I’ve learned about India after my first visit

1. Indian drivers have amazing spatial awareness (and they need it). Indian roads are mental, if there is a space that your vehicle will fit in then it will. Regardless of it being a lane or not.

2. India really is an assault on your senses and it’s amazing. There is always noise whether it be dogs barking, horns constantly sounding, people singing or prayer music. Bright colours are all over especially in arid areas like Rajasthan where the ground is very beige. Flowers called rangoli’s which are bright are brought to temples, the buildings are painted colours and the women wear the brightest clothes I have ever seen.

There is always a smell in the air whether it be incense, burning rubbish or cow dung. The food is spicy, they tone it down for foreigners but it still burns my tongue off! Even the cups of tea here include spices (chai masala tea).

3. Indians have incredibly bendy legs. Not sure whether this is because of the amazing muscles they need just to use the bathroom or it’s down to something else but they can really bend those legs! So many men squat on small fence posts comfortably as their seats.

4. Curries do get better than your favourite Indian restaurant at home. My curry tastes have definitely been changed. I’ve gone from just eating chicken curries to preferring vegetable curries with paneer or dal (paneer where have you been all my life). I’ve jumped off the naan bandwagon and on to the roti rodeo.

5. In the past when I’ve visited monuments that I’ve been excited about (the statue of liberty comes to mind) they’ve disappointed me. I’ve learned that, that doesn’t always have to be the case. The Taj Mahal took my breath away and I almost cried it was so stunning. It was so much more than the hype.

6. Indians stare. a lot. I’m not sure if this shocked me more because coming from Britain we are taught at an early age that staring is rude. Everywhere we have gone the locals will stop and stare at us. They don’t even stop staring when you stare back, this encourages them even more! It’s expected now but this is definitely one of the things I’ve felt most uncomfortable about.

7. Animals live harmoniously amongst people. In every place we have been there have been cows wandering aimlessly, on the highways and in the towns. This is because of their sacredness to the Hindus of India. In the cities their are thousands of stray dogs and wild monkeys roaming without anyone thinking anything of it.

8. I didn’t realise how much of a religious country India would be. I knew there was Hindus and Muslims but there are so much more. There’s thousands of temples to thousands of God’s and goddesses.

9. Each city we visited varied so much, Delhi is so crazy busy and dusty. Agra is so touristy and people clamber for your business and Jaipur, although busy has a laid back atmosphere which I liked the best.

10. Finally, how much I love India. It has been so much more than I could have imagined or hoped for and I will definitely be back.

Final Day in Delhi

Today we faced Delhi ourselves. When I woke up this morning I didn’t want to leave the safety of the hotel. Delhi is scary. But we planned our day with the help of Mandys itinerary and off we went. We walked around 10 miles today and saw lots of sights notably the India gate and the lotus temple (more importantly we also found out India has Nandos) to get around we caught the Delhi metro which is really easy similar to the tube. Women have their own carriage here, we can board any carriage but men cannot board the women only one. The women only carriage is amazing but it’s really sad that it is needed so that women have a safe place. For dinner we had an Indian pizza hut which was great.

We’ve come back to the hotel now and I’ve done a massive repack ready for the flight to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow evening! India you have been so much more than I ever could have imagined or hoped for!

Jaipur to Delhi 

Our final journey together as a group today was the 7 hour bus ride back to Delhi. We left Jaipur Inn at 10am and arrived at the hotel in Delhi at around 4.45pm. We had a stop for lunch where I had possibly my last vegetable thali *cries*.

After arriving back at the hotel we took the Delhi metro (for the first time) as a group to Connaught Place which is where the British had their office when they occupied India. The buildings looked very British. Whilst we were here we saw Indian H&M and various other brands we recognised.

The shops for rent in connaught place are very expensive and so most of the smaller Indian shops were in the Palika Bazaar. Palika is completely underground and is like a shopping centre but the very opposite to a British shopping centre. We didn’t get to browse freely and the shop workers tried very hard to get you into shops.

Tonight’s dinner was at Nizams and Mandy recommended the rolls, i had a chicken and egg roll (the roll part was a roti which is similar to a naan) and it was amazing. We came back to the hotel after this and said our goodbyes which was really sad. Truly don’t think we could have got a better group to start our adventure with!

Dhula and Jaipur

After leaving Agra we took the bus to a small village called Dhula Bagh. On the way we stopped at Fatephur Sikri and the Abhaneri Stepwell. Whilst visiting the stepwell we walked to the temple for the goddess of joy and happiness and here I was blessed by a priest where he said a prayer for me and gave me an orange bindi (which is a sign I have been blessed).  

Arriving at Dhula was a mad experience, once we turned off the main road we started passing little country houses with whole families sitting outside waving to us. Being white seems to be a novelty for a lot of Indians and we’ve been asked for pictures quite a lot.  Dhula Bagh campsite is the most beautiful picturesque place I have ever stayed.  The villagers provided us with vegetables they had grown for dinner and afterwards we sat round the campfire drinking and playing games.

The next morning we walked into the village and when we were there a lot of the children would follow us and smile and wave and all the villagers were genuinely lovely.  We then left Dhula for Jaipur, at this point we are in Rajasthan where it is very arid so the temperature is increasing now (I can actually take my hoody off!).  

We visited city palace in Jaipur and then went to see our first Hindi Bollywood movie – Tiger is alive.  There was less singing and dancing than I imagined and more blowing up.

Today is the kite festival in Jaipur which celebrates the sun moving into Capricorn and the start of the harvest season. All the locals fly kites and so the sky is filled with them. Our hotel owner is holding a rooftop party which we will be joining shortly!  This morning we visited palace of the winds and the Amber fort, where elephants ride people up the hill (we walked as the elephants aren’t treated well). The fort was beautiful and the views were stunning.

Tomorrow, we head back to Delhi where the tour will end. *sob sob*